“We’ll be back in 2 hours – just in time for that sauerbraten dinner you promised us!” Dad said as his long legs carried him swiftly across the front yard toward his pick-up truck. His friend Pat was waiting in the truck leisurely puffing on his pipe. They were going on an afternoon adventure to scope out a piece of “ground” as they did so often when Dad was preparing to build another house.
“That’s perfect timing! While you’re gone, Mom and I are going to do some prep work for Cheryl’s baby shower, and bottle a batch of Christmas beer,” I shouted to Dad from my back porch as he closed the truck door behind him and waved a hasty goodbye.
When I went back into the house I could see that Mom had finished washing the old brown 1-quart beer bottles. We arranged the empties on the floor in a half-circle in front of the weathered 10-gallon crock, which Pat and Dad had hoisted onto a chair for us so it would be easier to siphon every crystal clear drop from the crock into the bottles.
“You know, for two people who don’t drink beer, we certainly spend a lot of time bottling it!” Mom smiled. She was ribbing me and I knew that she also enjoyed the challenge of making home brew, because much like wine, the finished product turned out different every year.
“It’s worth all the fuss to see my beer-loving friends’ faces light up at Christmas when I hand them a bottle of pure golden, bubbly brew, made right here in my own dining room!” I replied peering down into the crock. We listened for the beer’s familiar “hiss, sizzle, gurgle,” that we had heard earlier in the week, it was quiet and still, a temporary flatness, which indicated it was ready to bottle.
We each grabbed a siphoning tube and pulled up a chair. We dipped one end of the tube into the crock, sucked on the other end of the tube to start the brew flowing through the tube and began siphoning fresh green beer into our 72 bottles.
We no sooner got started when the phone rang. I removed my siphon hose from the crock and laid it aside to answer the phone. Throughout the afternoon we had numerous calls, which meant we had to start a new tap with each interruption.
The phone rang again just as we were filling the last few bottles. “Eello! Oh hi, Cheryl. I’m so glat you called. Ows our expectant Mommy do’in?” I said into the phone.
Mom tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “remind her that we need a final guest lissht.”
“Do ya think we should start cap’in some of these baattles?” Mom asked, pulling the bottle capper to the edge of the dining room table and through several pools of spilled beer, which had dribbled down the table leg and had splashed onto the floor.
“That’s a gooot idea, Mom, the crock is emtee.”
I glanced out the dining room window, “Oh my gaawsh! Pad and Dat are comm’n up the driveway! Is it dinnertime all ratty?”
Mom started tittering and pointed an inebriated finger at me, “I think yur tiptssy!”
We looked at each other with a wavering glance, and realized that we were both feeling the effects of the beer. Suddenly everything was funny! We couldn’t stop giggling, our faces quickly covered with tears of laughter.
Much to Dad and Pat’s surprise, they found Mom and me surrounded by a sea of beer bottles, reeking of brewski and three sheets to the wind.
“Hey, Pat, get a load of these two teetotalers – they’ve got a snoot full!” Dad cried out above the clamor, and then both men burst into laughter.
Dad and Pat were good sports about our unintentional toot. With the help of our slurred instructions, the men boiled some red potatoes and put the finishing touches on the sauerbraten, and all was well with the world.
1 large arm cut chuck roast
2 medium onions, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
1 ½ cups red wine vinegar
2 ½ cup water
12 whole cloves
6 bay leaves
12 whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
2-4 tablespoons cooking oil
1 pint sour cream
Place roast in a large glass or plastic marinating container. Prepare marinade in a large bowl (a mixing bowl with a pour spout works good) by combining onions, lemon, vinegar, water, cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns, salt, sugar and ginger; stir well. Pour marinade over roast and cover. Marinate roast in refrigerator for 3-4 days, turning at least twice daily.
Set oven at 300°. Remove roast from marinade, reserving all remaining marinade except for the lemons, which should be discarded. Using paper towels, dry the roast thoroughly and set aside.
Pour cooking oil into a large heated skillet and brown roast on both sides. Place roast in a large baking pan or roaster, that’s been treated with cooking spray, pour marinade over roast; cover.
Bake for 3 hours, or until tender. Move roast to a serving platter, and keep it warm in the oven while sauce is being prepared. Remove and discard bay leaves, cloves and peppercorns from pan juices. Pour juice into a saucepan, bring it to a boil, and remove from the heat; stir in sour cream. Boiled red potatoes and slow-cooked green beans or steamed green cabbage make an excellent accompaniment for sauerbraten. Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Note: I’d suggest making Sauerbraten in the crock pot and serving it simply with egg noodles and steamed carrots or green beans when making it in August to celebrate National Beer Day. It’s traditionally an October-fest meal, or a German Pot Roast made more during the cooler months. But who can resist washing down delicious savory sauerbraten with a cold, frosty beer? Certainly NOT Mom and me!
For anyone who’s interested, I have a family recipe for making old fashioned home brew. Send your request to: email@example.com
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